Guiding Principles for an innovative school design
“We are still trying to develop both the philosophy as well as a system of education which really does respect the intelligence and abilities of ordinary people” – James Anderson
The time is now for positive solutions to achieve whole child reform that truly serves all children and even some adults. It is time to allow schools to be developed within the traditional public school setting that allows teachers to teach and students to learn. In developing and refining a list of guiding principles necessary for schools to become Innovative Schools, it is important not to be too detailed so as to leave flexibility and innovation to the local school districts. However, we must clearly define the parameters so as to not slide back to the old way of doing things. Erase from your mind how schools are spozed to be and think about how schools can be to serve all kids.
Please leave your suggestions so we can refine these guiding principles and move toward a proposal to save public education. Please relate suggestions to the system and philosophy of education and leave politics and finances for another time. This is only step 1. Are these principles too specific? Too general? Did I leave something out? Should something be added?
Here are some thoughts on the development of a category of schools called innovative schools:
1. Innovative schools will be exclusive to the traditional public school system.
2. Innovative schools will have fair enrollment practices and will maintain responsibility for all students in their charge. Students will all come into school as “students” not branded with preconceived notions. The school will take all “comers” without selectivity and will be monitored for this.
3. Innovative schools will be exempt from the current state standardized test however they must develop a variety of assessments that demonstrate true academic achievement. These assessments will clearly show student progress. A wide range of assessments, valuable to students, must be as authentic as possible and demonstrated in a way that is real to the student.
4. Innovative schools will develop a plan to fully involve all parents, as full partners, through constant contact and empowerment. Parent members of all committees will be a vehicle to assure all voices are heard. A parity chart will be developed to identify parent roles in each portion of school operations.
5. Innovative schools will develop a teacher evaluation plan that recognizes teaching as a team activity, supports teacher improvement and holds teachers responsible for a quality education program. Student outcomes are rarely attributed to a single educator making it difficult to determine singular responsibility. In addition there are many variables that determine the academic success of the child. However, within the class, opportunities for the student to advance must exist and, under this new system, advancement of all students is a teacher team expectation.
6. Innovative schools will be evaluated on inputs and outcomes including true academic achievement, recognizing that student gains are measured by demonstrated learning with individual progress charted. Every student moves forward from where they are. While there are many variables to student learning, the school must be designed to meet individual needs. Given the freedom to take students from where they are schools then will be responsible for true academic achievement based on individual goals. Additional outcomes must be verifiable i.e for graduation rates, every student must be tracked from enrollment to the time they leave the school.
7. Innovative schools will have an action plan for every student allowing them to progress from where they are on their pathway to success. This plan will cover all aspects of the student’s educational life. Given that students learn in different ways, an active curriculum, necessary to the success of students, will allow for learning through projects, community experiences, technology as well as a wide range of authentic activities allowing students to explore their ideas and discover solutions. Regardless of student obstacles, expectations for the highest individual progress will be maintained. All special needs will be addressed as part of the daily routine as all students are different. Student needs will determine timeframes while Carnegie units will not be a consideration and outcomes will override minutes of seat time.
8. Innovative schools will develop goals that will take students to levels that provide readiness for higher education, a quality vocation as well as social, emotional and economic success in their community and home. These goals will reflect the needs of the whole child in the community from local to global to the Earth’s galaxy and beyond. Students will remain connected to their culture as their background is the base for their learning.
9. Innovative schools will let students, on an individual basis, progress as rapidly through proficiencies as they are able, be they faster or slower. Maintaining high expectations, failure becomes a positive step toward learning and higher education becomes a partner to meet student needs. Students will develop through their pathway to success. As students blossom at different times, it is an essential part of the concept of innovation that students are allowed to advance through the system by demonstrating proficiencies without the fear of catastrophic failure. Students must clearly demonstrate proficiencies before moving on. However, failure must be a positive learning experience leaving the opportunity to self correct at the earliest possible moment
10. Innovative schools will develop an academic progress report that tells parents and/or students what they have learned and what they will learn. This will be directly connected to their action plan.
11. Innovative schools will introduce all students to skills that require higher learning without assessment. These exploratory workshops will be presented in a manner that is clear to all students as they may then determine how to follow their dreams without preconceived notions. Enrollment in these workshops is solely based on student interest.
12. Innovative school locations will include traditional as well as other sites allowing students of any age to complete their traditional diploma. This includes partnerships with higher education, businesses, community agencies, job corp. etc.
13. Innovative schools will team with a community learning center with emphasis on early childhood health related issues as well as a wide range of learning experiences and support systems making the school the center of the community.